Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
The friends and co-workers of Valeria Sommers gather at her funeral. Screen writer Charlie Parish takes note of everyone’s outward show of emotions. “Flapjack” Jones, a former child star, surprises Charlie by being closer to Valeria than anyone would have realized. When his friend Gil shows up, Charlie has to deal with the drunken, blacklisted writer before anyone sees him which gets him thinking about how they wound up in their present situation. After a brief flashback, Charlie drags Gil home to his wife, Melba. She and Charlie share a close moment that makes him feel awkward. He tries to say something comforting but stumbles. Back at the studio, Charlie sees an actor whose face is wrapped in bandages and begins to imagine what it would be like to have a mask that he could hide behind. Meanwhile, the studio owner and director of the picture that Valeria was working on when she died, discuss plans for continuing the film and what her loss means to them. Charlie catches up with the director who talks to him about rewrites and a new direction for the film. The writer blows him off and goes back to his office to drink and work out some of the rage he is feeling. He has another flashback to time he Valeria were working and sharing personal details. He’s pulled out of his daydream by a ringing phone with bad news at the other end of the line. Gil has run off once again in a drunken stupor, but Charlie knows where to find him. Gil, knowing the truth of the circumstances behind Valeria’s death has gone to her grave. The two get into a fight over keeping secrets and Gil asks why Charlie even told him, which leads Charlie to a grim realization.
The Fade Out #2 is a reactionary issue. Brubaker focuses not so much on the “whodunnit” aspect of the story but more on how the death of Valeria Sommers has affected everyone around her. Eschewing the hunt for the murderer, we are presented with a very human story that is filled with oft times volatile emotion. All the characters are dealing with the loss in their own way, making them all feel very real. Some are raw, some are sad, and some are just lost. The story is told from Charlie’s point of view and we learn a lot more about him this issue. He’s a robust character and the details of his life come out in flashbacks and in his interactions with those around him. He’s no leading man, but he’s a very interesting focus character.
What can I say about Sean Phillips art that hasn’t already been said? It’s fantastic. He captures the look of old hollywood perfectly. His characters are realistically portrayed, and he certainly knows how to draw beautiful women that aren’t overly sexualized or of superhero proportions. He draws incredibly expressive faces without going over the top. He also knows how to step back during the more violent moments and let colorist Elisabeth Breitweiser really make the scene pop off the page. The static but powerful fight scene in the graveyard kind of put me in the mind of the Adam West Batman tv show with the brightly colored shapes accentuating the punches. The only thing missing were the POWs and ZAPs, but those were replaced with much more fitting expletives.
The Fade Out is only on its second issue, but already continues Brubaker and Phillips’ tradition of excellence. Even though they chose not to follow up with the mystery setup int he first issue (I assume they will come back to that), they still managed to tell a compelling story that I want to read more of. I’m already looking forward to the next issue.
My Rating: 5/5